Rabalais: Tigers punch ticket to Omaha

In the LSU Tigers’ team room in Alex Box Stadium, five giant silvery letters are mounted high up on the wall.


Those letters inspire. They enlighten. At times, as was the case after last year’s NCAA super regional loss to Stony Brook, they taunt.

This time, though, the Tigers fulfilled their promise. This time, they touched them all, every letter and every outstretched hand that circled the ballpark as LSU players took their victory lap.

This year, Omaha is once again the Tigers’ destination, not just their annual lofty goal.

Ice down a couple of truckloads of extra beer, Nebraska. LSU is going back to the College World Series.

And man, have the Tigers been thirsty.

Four years between trips to the CWS may seem like nothing to most college baseball fans. For some, like the folks from Stony Brook, once in a lifetime may have to be enough.

For LSU and its legion of fans, it’s been a nearly unbearable drought.

They got close last year but got out-hit, out-pitched, out-everythinged by a No. 4 seed from Stony Brook that proved to be destiny’s darling — until it reached Omaha. Then it turned out to be destiny’s pumpkin, going 0-2.

Coming into this year’s super regional, Oklahoma looked like an even more formidable challenge than Stony Brook. ESPN’s Kyle Peterson, who called the games here this weekend, called the Sooners the best No. 2 seed in the field.

Oklahoma was not only hot, coming off a Big 12 tournament championship and a regional victory at Virginia Tech, the Sooners were driven by a cause. They were playing for all the tornado-ravaged folks back in Oklahoma, giving them a ray of sunshine in a dark hour of despair.

But for the Sooners, this rich vein of motivation played out by the time they touched down in Baton Rouge. The surging momentum that has been LSU’s entire season — the Tigers already have tied the school record for wins with their 57-9 record — was too much to overcome.

In the final analysis, the Sooners weren’t as good as Stony Brook.

Their calling card, and their best weapon, was Friday night starting pitcher Jonathan Gray. When he was done after 7.1 innings down to LSU ace Aaron Nola, Oklahoma’s best chance to win was done as well.

The Sooners managed just one run in two games and seven total hits, committed four costly errors and made a few more damaging mistakes. The Tigers, as they have done the entire season, were only too happy to drive the dagger home once the Sooners handed it to them.

LSU didn’t need all those Oklahoma gifts or even any good mojo from that lucky can of corn that “Duck Dynasty” star Jase Robertson brought them back in March after throwing out a first pitch.

By the eighth inning, with Chris Cotton dealing shape-shifting pitches on the mound and Oklahoma unable to cobble together any offense, the super regional turned into a compact version of Bayou Country Superfest.

“Sweet Caroline.” “Callin’ Baton Rouge.” “We Will Rock You.” “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.” Oh, the folks who braved the driest rain delay in LSU baseball history midway through and stayed late into the night were having a rockin’ good time.

You should have been there. If you weren’t, add LSU’s next potential CWS-clinching game to your bucket list.

For now, though, there are CWS games to play.

To pinch a lyric from Todd Thibaud’s famous song, the Tigers are back home in Omaha.